As 'Poor Law Student,' Hillary Clinton Says She Rented a TV to Watch Nixon in China

By Susan Jones | March 8, 2012 | 9:13 AM EST

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton walks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, left, after their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of an ASEAN foreign ministerial meeting in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia on July 22, 2011. (AP Photo)

( - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, marking the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon's trip to China, told a China conference in Washington on Wednesday that she was a "poor law student" in 1972 -- but "I was not about to miss history being made," so she rented a television set -- "a portable model with those rabbit ears," she said -- to watch the events:

"I lugged it back to my apartment and tuned in every night to watch scenes of a country that had been blocked from view for my entire life. Like many Americans, I was riveted and proud of what we were accomplishing through our president," Clinton said.

In her speech – delivered at the U.S. Institute of Peace -- Clinton lauded China's progress since Nixon's visit, crediting the former president with bringing China into the "international order."

Clinton noted that the U.S.-China relationship also has undergone major transformation in the past 40 years, which requires "adjustments in our thinking and our actions, on both sides of the Pacific."

"We are, together, building a model in which we strike a stable and mutually acceptable balance between cooperation and competition. This is uncharted territory. And we have to get it right, because so much depends on it."

Clinton said the U.S. is "clear-eyed" about the obstacles encountered during the Obama administration’s "three years of intensive engagement" with China. She said both countries "mistrust" the other's intentions, particularly in military matters. But, she added, "A thriving China is good for America, and a thriving America is good for China."

The United States is not attempting to contain China, she insisted: “If China’s rise means that we have an increasingly capable and engaged partner, that’s good news for us. And we will seize every chance to engage, because we’re not a country that sits on our lead. We’re a country with confidence in our own standing and in our ability to compete and succeed."

Clinton said "the world is looking for China to play a role that is commensurate with its new standing," which means China cannot have it both ways -- being treated both as a great power and a developing nation.

The world is looking to China and asking questions like these, Clinton said:

-- “Will China adapt its foreign policy so it contributes more to solving regional and global problems to make it possible for others to succeed as well?

-- “Will it use its power to help end brutal violence against civilians in places like Syria?

-- “Will it explain its military buildup and the ultimate goals of its military strategies, policies, and programs to relieve unease, to reassure its neighbors, to avoid misunderstandings, and to contribute to maintaining regional security?

-- “Will it uphold international maritime laws and norms, which for decades have made it possible for nations to engage in peaceful trade?

--“Will it work more vigorously to establish international standards in cyberspace, so the Internet works for everyone and so people in China and elsewhere can harness its economic and social benefits?

-- “And will it use its economic standing to enforce a rules-based system for global trade and investment so it can advance its own economic development while contributing to global growth?"

Clinton also noted that that the U.S. has "long and profound disagreements" with China on its obligations to protect human rights: "And we believe that with development comes an opportunity for the aspirations of people everywhere to express themselves freely, whether on the Internet, or in a public square, or on the factory floor.”

Religious, linguistic and cultural differences must be respected, in China and everywhere else, she insisted.

China and the United States cannot solve all the problems of the world together, Clinton said. "But without China and the United States, I doubt that any of our global problems can be solved. We want China to be a full stakeholder, embracing its role as a major global player, to helping strengthen the international system that makes its own and our success possible."

The U.S. will "seek every opportunity for engagement with China," and the U.S. will "keep discussing our differences openly, developing as many avenues for cooperation as we possibly can."